How to pack for a family car trip

traveling with kids

traveling with kidsA recent survey unsurprisingly found that the journey to and from a holiday destination is the biggest cause of stress for many parents. And with Christmas family get-togethers looming, many of us have long car journeys to look forward to!

But with the proper preparation, the festive car trip can become a little easier for all concerned.

Plan ahead

A checklist is a great way to make sure you take everything that you need, for example the charger for the mobile phone. It also helps to focus on not taking too much.

Plan a few weeks ahead with the help of checklists and you can then forget about it until it’s time to pack.

Take the checklist with you as it’s great for making sure you bring everything back with you, including the favourite toy. Remember also to save it for the next car trip!

Also, by following our tips to prepare your car for a long journey you could also save on motoring costs.


The great thing about a car trip is that you’re not limited to one bag each; but don’t let that mean you pack the entire wardrobe.

One coat, pair of gloves, scarf and hat is enough per person. Try enlisting the family’s help to pick some of their favourite outfits to take… but not too many.

Lay everything out on the bed first, and then pack to suit the destination. So, for example, if two children are sleeping in the same room then pack their things together.

Consider getting bulky goods like nappies delivered direct to your destination – they’ll probably arrive before you do. This may also be great for the children’s Christmas presents too.

Car games

Keeping the youngsters amused on a long trip can be a real challenge, but there are a few tried and tested games and activities that won’t let you down.

I Spy, for example, is an old favourite and it’s easy for the whole family to join in.

Pick A Colour is again nice and simple: for example, the first person to spot 10 purple items wins.

A portable DVD player and favourite DVDs can be a godsend… Maybe pick up a couple of new ones at the local charity shop, or do a swap with a friend. Sites such as freecycle are also a great source of free videos and DVDs.

Individual MP3 players with each child’s favourite music and stories can avoid the arguments about who wants to listen to what.

And for older children, following the route on a map can help with the “are we nearly there yet” requests. This can be fun and educational too. It must be very disconcerting to be on a trip when you have no idea where you are going in relation to where you are now, and not understanding how long it takes.


If you’ll be travelling at night, think about taking some travel neck pillows, or better still a pillow and a blanket to snuggle into – then let the kids sleep the journey away… or at least some of it.

Snacks & drinks

Whilst any journey longer than an hour or two will need planned toilet and stretch breaks, you can save a lot of money taking your own drinks and snacks. Motorway services are expensive and packed with lots of tempting treats for children, so lingering there can add to the stress and the cost of the trip.

Happy holidays!

Helen Hutchings heads up which aims to help take the stress out of what to pack for holidays. It includes packing guides and tips on how to pack less but wear more, how to save money and be appropriately dressed wherever in the world you go!